Your Time is Up
"I will place Tzoraas on your houses" (14:34)
Rashi quotes the Chazal which states that the Emorites, who lived in Eretz Yisroel during the forty years that the Jews were in the desert, would hide their valuables in the walls of their homes. There-fore, Hashem would bring Tzoraas upon these houses so that the home-owners would find the valuables.1
A number of difficulties need to be addressed. First, why did the Jews find only the valuables hidden during the forty years in the desert and not the ones hidden before? Second, why does Rashi refer to the inhabitants as Emorites rather than Canaanites, the generic name for the seven nations living in Eretz Canaan at the time? What compounds this difficulty is that the Midrash which Rashi cites does in fact refer to them as Canaanites.2 What compelled Rashi to switch the terminology? Furthermore, the verse that Chazal are expounding upon refers to the land of (Eretz) Canaan, which is more of a reason to refer to its inhabitants as Canaanites.
At the Bris Bein Habesarim - Covenant of the Pieces, Hashem informed Avraham that his descendants would be slaves for four hundred years. Only the fourth generation after Avraham would merit to enter Eretz Yisroel. The reason why Bnei Yisroel had to wait four generations, as given by the To-rah, is that "ki lo sholeim avon ha'emori", which means that the Emorites had not reached the level of sin for which they would deserve to be thrown out. When Bnei Yisroel left Egypt they were supposed to go directly to Eretz Yisroel, and at that time the Emorites had, in fact, lost their right to live there. However, Bnei Yisroel were delayed forty years due to the sin of the spies. Consequently, all the wealth produced by the land for those forty years already belonged to Bnei Yisroel.
Chazal are telling us that the Emorites' valuables hidden during the forty years would be discovered by Bnei Yisroel, for they were, in fact, the right-ful owners. Rashi is very specific in his reference to the inhabitants as Emo-rites, for this is the term that Hashem used at the Bris Bein Habesarim when He explained why Bnei Yisroel would have to wait four generations before they could settle in Eretz Yisroel.
1.14:34 2.Toras Kohanim 5:4 3.Beraishis 15:16
"and the Kohein shall place at the middle part of the ear of the man being purified"(14:25)
This week's parsha records the purification process that the metzora, an individual with a skin malady, undergoes to permit him to regain entry into society. The tzora'as malady from which the metzora suffers is a result of "loshon harah", the slanderous conversation in which the metzorah has engaged; hence the name metzora from the term "motzi rah" - "one who brings forth evil".1 After the metzora is separated for seven days, the Kohein takes blood from the guilt-offering brought by the metzora and dabs it on his right ear, thumb and big toe as part of the final purification process.2 This process is found on only one other occasion, the inauguration of the Kohein. Why does the Kohein, who is the most noble and elevated member of Klal Yisroel, undergo the same process as the individual who has just been ousted from society as a result of his odious behavior?
The Talmud records that the primordial serpent walked upright and was the original king of all beasts. After instigating Chava to sin, the serpent was cursed by the loss of its limbs and the inability to savor its food. The serpent, which is also the symbol of loshon horah, proclaimed that just as he is unable to enjoy his food, there is no satisfaction in speaking loshon harah, "mah yisron l'baal halashon"3 - "There is no benefit gained from the speaking of loshon harah." The Talmud relates that while a minority of people are susceptible to the desires of promiscuity, a majority are tempted by theft. However, everyone is susceptible to the sin of loshon harah. Generally, man is motivated by gratification, which explains the temptation for promiscuity and theft. Why is every man susceptible to the sin of loshon horah if there is no gratification in this transgression?
Every person has a deep yearning to sense self-worth. Secular society promotes competition as the forum in which to gauge our worth; we sense our self-worth vis-à-vis our contemporaries. Unfortunately this manner of gauging ourselves is fraught with great dangers. We are never truly encouraged to fully develop our own potential and individuality for success is achieved by besting others, not by challenging ourselves to be all that we can be. Furthermore, instead of applying ourselves and developing our talents we sometimes choose the path of least resistance. We elevate ourselves by stepping upon others. By putting others down we delude ourselves into believing that we are better than them. However, instead of feeling accomplished, we are left feeling empty and unproductive. The greater a person's potential, the greater the void that is left when he is unfulfilled. For this reason the greatest cynics and ba'alei loshon horah who are capable of making the most insulting remarks are usually the most talented individuals who take the easy way out and attempt to feel accomplished by belittling others instead of making the effort to develop themselves in a positive manner.
It is this desire to feel self-worth that fuels a person to speak loshon harah. Every individual is affected because everyone has the need to feel fulfilled. The Kohein is the individual who embodies self-accomplishment. Having developed his potential, he stands out in society. The inaugural process that he undergoes highlights the fact that he is an outstanding individual. The message to the metzora is that he too can be an outstanding individual and it need not be for his negativity. Rather, he should emulate the Kohein and develop his potential so that he too will be elevated for his positive accomplishments
1.Arachin 16a 2.Shemos 29:20 3.Taanis 8a